Written by Adam Long, Daniel Singer, and Jess Winfield, The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged), the classic comedy show about seeing all Shakespeare’s works within two hours, has been viewed and praised by viewers in a lot of countries. This show has been constantly toured internationally which has turned into a cult in the theatre world through the years.
This year is the 30th anniversary of the Reduced Shakespeare’s Company’s iconic show, and Aurora Theatre in Hong Kong is fortunate enough to be able to produce the show while RSC is touring it for the celebration. The result proves that even a small independent theatre company can make astounding theatre.
I remember when I first saw The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged), it was at the Drama Theatre of Hong Kong Academy of Performing Arts where an Australian production toured to the city. I was a secondary school student in mid-form, and was mesmerised by the theatricalities the company has pulled off, having an afternoon laughing out loud for comedy gold.
Nearly a decade and a half later, I just revisited this play with the production by Aurora, and what a blast for the night! I have to say that this time, it is a way better experience than I remember of what I saw back then.
Ran at the Underground Theatre of the Fringe Club, The Complete Works of Shakespeare (Abridge) is a highly entertaining show with performances that is more spectacular, but at the same time much more heartfelt with its organic vibe than the one I saw years ago.
The premise is simple: a company of three wants to make Shakespeare plays much more accessible to the audience, thus they put on a show to perform all Shakespeare’s plays within 97 minutes.
As to do so, stage door humour to the same level of Noises Off’s or The 39 Steps’s, as well as jokes referencing back to Shakespeare in layman’s terms, are absolutely promised. When I was seeing the show, I somehow re-lived back to the very first time I saw it back at HKAPA, but this time, I feel much more knowledgeable, as well as much more at ease to see the performance.
One of the things that make the difference is probably that the Underground Theatre is a lot smaller than the Drama Theatre. I feel that the energy is much more intact to give such highly physical comedy.
However, the actors are the pivotal element of whether this show is a success or a failure, and I have to say, this cast with Dakota Duclo, Nicole Gabriellini, and Marc Ngan, as the trio is the successful formula. Not only because they are all talented, but it is also because of the work that they have to drill to put themselves in front of the audience without being self-aware as a comedy trio, it is this effort that deserves a 5-star rating.
Mr Duclo has immense presence and charisma to not only command the verses but also the comedy, while Miss Gabriellini’s innocent vibe enhances the production with an honest tone. Mr Ngan, personally, rules the night with his sky-limit energy on physical comedy as brilliant as a stand-up by Lee Evans. He, however, can also be serious and lucid enough to make one emote through a Hamlet monologue.
It is the unique characteristics of each of the three actors that develop such a dynamic ensemble, which is highly upbeat, but at the same comfortable for the audience to experience. The comic moments are on point. The ad-lips are flawless.
But most of all, I can see that they are true friends who have a connection with each other. Their chemistry is one of a kind, and thus when there are moments where they naturally react to other cast members’ mistakes (or ‘mistakes’), those are unique and lovable to this production.
I can sense a huge affection from the cast members towards the piece, towards their company, as well as towards their audience. You can see the reactions from the audience, who were so engaged with the show, gives out an affection towards the cast in return. The result is a night of an honest communication through the plays of Shakespeare, the masterpieces that share universal themes.
This is the spirit that I would die to find in the theatre, and even though this show is going to be back in Hong Kong later this year, this time the original RSC production, this Aurora production will always have a seat in my heart.
The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) by Reduced Shakespeare’s Company
An Aurora Theatre Production
Underground Theatre, Fringe Club
Closed on 27th May 2017
This post was written by the author in their personal capacity.The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the view of The Theatre Times, their staff or collaborators.